Review Summary: The Absence sound like The Absence here, which is basically a good thing.
Save the one-time glory ascension of Garden of Shadows
with their Oracle Moon
album in 2000 and Arsis
’ A Celebration of Guilt
in 2004, you will be hard-pressed to find better melodic death metal in The States than Florida’s The Absence and D.C.’s Darkest Hour
. These two bands have had the job of faithfully and consistently carrying the Gothenburg traditions here for a good while now, with few bands even coming close to challenging their place on the top in the last five or six years. 2007 saw the pinnacle for The Absence and Darkest Hour
with the releases of Riders of the Plague
and Deliver Us
for each, respectively, and as 2009’s The Eternal Return
was the sound of Darkest Hour
riding an easier path of consistency rather than one of innovation, this year’s Enemy Unbound
sees The Absence sitting back and letting their sound do its thing.
That’s enough to indicate for you that The Absence have found a sweet spot and are just sitting in it for now, as they have for Enemy Unbound
- but they aren’t being lazy. In comparison to the strength of the band’s individual tracks, “Maelstrom” is just as much a catchy number as 2007’s “Dead and Gone”, and as is evidenced for the whole of the album, the band’s thrash-influenced melodic riffs are just as strong and consistent as they were on the last time out. Vocalist Jaime Stewart remains one of the band’s essential pieces, too, his bite ever finding a likable line between Arsis
’ James Malone and At The Gates
’ Tomas Lindberg – i.e. an almost perfect voice for this kind of stuff.
However, and as was a point against 2007’s Riders of the Plague
as well, The Absence have never been the best of songwriters – at least, when it comes to composing songs that remain memorable in the long run. This is a particular problem on Enemy Unbound
, too, as while the whole of the album retains a very consistent feel, there’s not all that much here from the Florida group that will stick with you over time. The guitar and vocal melodies are strong on first listens, for example, but you’ll find that they often fail to find a spot in your head, even after several spins. The exceptions to this are the aforementioned pre-released “Maelstrom” and the title track, however, songs in which the band takes catchy and memorable riffs and places them with two of Stewart’s best vocal deliveries.
“Vengeance and Victory” is also notable with its light folk influence and for containing a slower tempo than is typical for The Absence’s aesthetic. Varying time signatures make this a real highlight for listeners, too, razorblade-sharp solos coming from guitarists Peter Josephs and Patrick Pintavalle in the second half of the song for a strong close as well. It’s the light touches in songs like this that keep Enemy Unbound
from sounding like just a carbon copy of the band’s past works - even if the differences are often minimal, though. The album plays like an exercise in one of the best and most consistent blends of melodic death metal that you will find in The States, and while it is by no means a push forward for The Absence, Enemy Unbound
at least keeps up with the rest of the band's albums in its level of quality: The Absence sound like The Absence here, which is basically a good thing.